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At 6:10 A.M., I awoke with this affirming dream:

Advent will soon arrive and our group plans our annual project. Instead of buying holiday gifts for loved ones, we will bake pastries in each other’s kitchens, Mondays after work—Of little concern that no one knows how to bake.

After our first Monday gathering, we step back from the mess: sinks filled with soiled pots and utensils, counters crammed with half-opened ingredients and stained cookbooks, floors pastiched with icing and brown sugar. What looks like a plate of chocolate chip cookies sits near the oven. My crocs make stickery sounds as I join the others with a bucket of water and mop; disheartened, we clean into the night.

On subsequent Mondays, some progress brightens our moods: Pastries are beginning to resemble the pictures in the cookbooks.

Our final Monday yields holiday boxes of pastries, unique in taste, design, and decorations. We’re glad to share.

I liken this dream to my daily practice of recovery found in Recipe for Recovery: A Guide to the Twelve Steps of Chronic Pain Anonymous (cookbooks). Its format resembles a cookbook, with Ingredients, Description, Directions, Preparation, and What It Looks Like. Working this program requires willingness to reeducate our psyches from less-than responses learned earlier in life. Such conscious work also benefits others.

The dream opens with the season of Advent, a four-week arduous preparation for the Christmas mysteries. Similarly in CPA, the penitential climate of Advent informs the practice of the Twelve Steps, a lifelong practice.

Our group symbolizes the spiritual fellowship that consciously takes on this challenging project, with Higher Power’s help. Kitchens represent CPA’s website and the varied sites—phone or Zoom—where meetings are held. Our first Monday gathering reveals deep willingness in the group’s initial efforts to mix/blend/simmer ingredients which flop. Even more is this willingness demonstrated in cleaning up the kitchen. No matter that my crocs will be soiled; they can be hosed down, and I’ll return the following Monday with the others.

The mess stands for Step One, the powerlessness and unmanageability of our lives. Some progress speaks to the beginnings of changed behaviors and attitudes that keep us humble and teachable.

Thus, Holiday boxes of pastries represent the joy of living with Higher Power, now and even more so in the next life. And the final Monday, the last day of this mortal life.  

My gladness is deep


At 3:30 A.M., I smiled, recording this dream:

After a long absence, I’ve returned to the Lindell Club to attend a Women’s meeting of Alcohol Anonymous. Animation swells the room filled with mismatched tables and chairs. Sunshine streams through streaked windows. When my recovery buddies spot me, they run over and hug me.

The Lindell Club, housed in an 1890s brownstone, has been a privately maintained hub for recovering alcoholics in the Greater St. Louis area since 1950. A significant container for changing lives, it has served me well as far back as 1991, when I first found my way up the marble steps to the front stoop letting onto the massive black doors. That noon meeting launched my entrance into Alcoholic Anonymous and my life has never been the same.

The image of mismatched tables and chairs speaks of AA’s identification with the first beatitude of Jesus: Blessed are the poor of spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven, an identification that also extends to material things. Only the lowly can access Higher Power’s transforming grace for the willingness to change everything; with light hearts, we participate in His dream for us.

(I still remember the faded leatherette peeling from the chair in which I was sitting that first afternoon.)

And the image of my recovery buddies suggests vibrant healing of the Feminine spirit within my psyche. Multiple years of self-hatred and emotional dishonesty, juiced by sweet wines, had scarred my psyche. Desperate for relief, I was heartened as others shared their experiences working the 12 Steps. Immediately, I began the arduous task of self-scrutiny that led to meaningful relationships with Higher Power, others, and myself. Although presently homebound, isolation no longer blocks me from others.

This dream feels like Higher Power’s winking “Well done!” Yet, only my last breath will complete this graced work.


Before I describe my recovery in CPA’s worldwide spiritual fellowship, let me review its textbook, Recipe for Recovery – A Guide to the Twelve Steps of Chronic Pain Anonymous (2015). It has also become the manual for my terminal illness, Interstitial Lung Disease with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

With years of recovery in AA, I sensed I’d have some inkling of what I would find upon its pages, or so I thought. Thanks to daily study with my sponsor, its differences began to flower pinkness: there was recovery within my end time and I would have it. My practice of CPA’s 12 Steps gentled changes within my motives, thinking, and actions, slowly replacing ineffective ones that had kept me miserable in my diseases. It was about finding a new Higher Power.

To simplify this process, the anonymous authors of our text, also disabled, adopted a cookbook format, its words spare and succinct; only the essentials presented for its members, with low-to-no- energy. Like a succulent dish, each Step is presented with the following components: Ingredients list psychological, emotional, and spiritual aspects that best go into working that Step; Description speaks of what that Step teaches; Directions reflect members’ spirited language with that Step; Working the Step contains questions pertinent to deepening the process; and What It Looks Like includes members’ stories related to working that Step. Like rungs on a ladder, each Step builds on preceding ones.

Since last November, Recipe for Recovery – A Guide to the Twelve Steps of Chronic Pain Anonymous has supported my one-day-at-a-time-living with terminal illness. Despite occasional setbacks—grist for more spiritual growth—I continue learning and I am content.



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